Set in the East Coast town of Whāngārā, Whale Rider tells the tale of a young Māori girl, Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), who challenges tradition and embraces the past in order to find the strength to lead her people forward. Directed and written by Niki Caro, the film is based on Witi Ihimaera's novel The Whale Rider. Coupling a specific sense of place and culture with a universal coming-of-age story, Whale Rider became one of the most successful and acclaimed New Zealand films released internationally. It also won audience choice awards at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals.
This documentary tells the story of Moana Ngārimu the sole soldier from the Māori Battalion to be awarded (posthumously) the Victoria Cross during WWII. On 26th March 1943, at Tebaga Gap in Tunisia, the Second Lieutenant took a key position and defended it (as well as injured men) overnight, before being killed in a counter-attack. He was 24. The doco was made for TVNZ for the 50th anniversary of his death. It looks at his life and features moving archive and interviews with Ngārimu's friends and family in Ruatoria, and battalion comrades. Presented by Wira Gardiner.
In this episode of her TV3 series for pre-schoolers, Suzy Cato creates a farm in her garden and uses songs, stories and animations to introduce a variety of animals. Chickens cluck, a mother pig and her three piglets bathe in mud, frogs catch flies with their tongues — and one of the chickens strays into the family of frogs and has to be returned home. Meanwhile, a baby bird hatches but can't immediately find its mother, the sock puppet family is seen in all of its extended glory and Suzy keeps proceedings moving with her ebullient friendliness.
In this feature film, Tama, a distressed young man, becomes entwined with five families coping with suicide on a journey from Parihaka to Te Rerenga Wairua. A mysterious woman, Hine-nui-te-pō, prompts Tama to confront the finality of death. Director Paora Joseph (Children of Parihaka) mixes drama and documentary, in the hope his film will provoke kōrero around mental health, and offer a pathway through darkness. Niwa Whatuira (The Dark Horse) and newcomer Hera Foley play the lead roles. Māui’s Hook was set to debut at the 2018 NZ International Film Festival.
For this 2017 feature film, eight Māori women each directed a 10 minute segment of events circling around the tangi of a boy named Waru. Each director had a day and a single shot to capture their take on the context behind a tragedy. After its debut at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival, Waru won a rush of social media attention, and screened at the Toronto and ImagineNATIVE festivals. The Hollywood Reporter praised it for bringing "a sense of dramatic, urgent realism to a story that plays out like a suspenseful mystery". Waru was produced by Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton.
This black and white short film explores a relationship triangle — between a Māori woman, her boorish Pākehā husband, and the woman’s protective father, arguing over rights to a farm. It was made as an Auckland University masters project by Li Geng Xin; he wanted to tell a story using visual language, and choses the expressive mode of the silent film to do so. Māori instruments (taonga puoro) and piano are used on the soundtrack. Mrs Mokemoke was selected for the 2015 NZ International Film Festival, in the Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts programme.
Classic Kiwi play Joyful and Triumphant followed the Bishop family over four decades, from 1949 to 1989. Written by Robert Lord, it charted changes in New Zealand society by focusing on the minutae of Christmas Day family dynamics. The play was first performed to sellout audiences in 1992, a month after Lord died. It won multiple Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. Directed by Peter Sharp (The Fire-Raiser), this TV adaptation features Robyn Malcolm and Goodbye Pork Pie's Tony Barry — plus Catherine Downes and Bruce Phillips, who both appeared in the original production.
As the poster puts it, The Pā Boys is "about 'life, death and fu**ing good music'. It follows a Wellington band playing East Coast and Northland pubs, as they head for Cape Reinga. The trio find themselves on a roots journey that's both musical and personal (mateship, whānau, whakapapa). The cast includes singer Francis Kora, with songs by Warren Maxwell. Released in Kiwi cinemas on Waitangi Day 2014, Himiona Grace's first feature won positive reviews, and a Best Film gong at the 2014 Wairoa Māori Film Festival. Ainsley Gardiner (Boy) and Mina Mathieson (Warbrick) produced.
An urban Maori trust, Te Whanau o Waipareira has developed from modest beginnings as a vegetable selling co-op into the biggest employment and training organisation in West Auckland. This documentary by Toby Mills and Aileen O'Sullivan examines its operations through the eyes of four people who have had their lives turned around by its all encompassing social, health, justice and education programmes. Interviewees include Pita Sharples and trust CEO John Tamihere (who recounts early struggles to be accepted by government, council and business sectors).
Once Were Warriors opened the eyes of cinemagoers around the globe to an unexamined aspect of modern New Zealand life. Director Lee Tamahori's hard-hitting depiction of domestic and gang violence amongst an urban Māori whānau was adapted from the best-selling Alan Duff novel. The film provided career-defining roles for Temuera Morrison and Rena Owen as Jake the Muss and Beth Heke. It remains NZ's most watched local release in terms of bums on seats. Among a trio of backgrounders, Riwia Brown writes about adapting Duff's book for the screen.